There’s arguably no royal wedding as iconic as Princess Diana’s (sorry not sorry, Kate and Will). Princess Di was an icon of her generation, so it’s no surprise that her wedding would be a cultural phenomenon.
But just because it’s a royal wedding doesn’t mean it didn’t have any hiccups. In fact, the 1981 wedding was chock-full of flaws. Yet, in the public’s eye, the event of the century seemed like it went smoothly. Like they always say, nothing’s ever exactly as it seems.
From wedding dress mishaps to blundered vows and dirty secrets, this royal wedding definitely didn’t go as planned. And in a way, that makes Princess Di seem even more relatable. After all, she was known as the princess of the people — deservedly so, we might add. If you’re as clueless as we once were, allow us to share some of the missteps that occurred during what’s supposed to be the happiest day of a girl’s life.
There were wedding dress spies
A wedding dress might be the most glamorous thing a girl will wear in her lifetime, as evidenced by countless Pinterest boards full of wedding inspo. Princess Diana’s dress is no exception. Well, there might be a few differences. Lady Di was often followed by paparazzi — even when she’d go to fittings for her wedding dress.
Dress designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel did their best to keep the dress under wraps, going so far as to hire security and code-naming Diana as "Deborah" when scheduling her appointments, as reported by Brides. Her dress would break records: At 25 feet, its train was the longest ever seen (via Daily Mail). This design decision probably came from the fact that the designers had a lot of creative freedom. "We never had any special instructions about how to make the wedding dress. That added a bit to the fun of it all, made it a bit of an adventure," David said, according to People.
The duo also designed a second dress that Princess Di didn’t even know about. In an interview with People, David revealed, "We didn’t try it on Diana. We never even discussed it. We wanted to make sure we had something there; it was for our own peace of mind, really."
Princess Diana’s dress required several alterations
Though the designers had a fun time designing Princess Diana’s wedding gown, they were constantly making alterations to the dress. "Most brides do lose weight. So we weren’t that worried when she did. She was looking fantastic. She ended up with a 23-inch waist from a 26- to 27-inch," said Elizabeth Emanuel (via People).
However, the designers didn’t know the dark reality behind the drastic weight loss. Diana struggled with an eating disorder that began the day after she got engaged and would only worsen as her wedding day approached. The more weight she lost, the more alterations they made to the dress. In Channel 5’s documentary "Charles and Di: The Truth Behind Their Royal Wedding," Elizabeth said, "She was losing so much we even had to start again a few times, even after cutting into the fabric," as reported in MyLondon.
Also speaking in the documentary, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said there was a marked change in Princess Diana’s figure leading up to the wedding. "When we first saw Diana in those first pictures, she was a normal young woman, normal weight, lovely round face. She looked beautiful, but she melted away."
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA’s Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).
Her dress was wrinkled during her carriage ride
If you’ve ever dreamed of a princess wedding, then it’s possible that a horse-drawn carriage was involved. While that’s a dream for most, it’s customary for the people’s princess. The thing about Princess Di’s carriage is that it was mighty small — we’re talking Cinderella carriage small — which caused a few snags in the dress department. With a dress that large and a carriage that small, her dress was incredibly wrinkled by the time she made it to the church.
Even dress designer Elizabeth Emanuel was shocked. "We did know it would crease a bit, but when I saw her arrive at St Paul’s and we saw the creasing, I actually felt faint. I was horrified, really, because it was quite a lot of creasing. It was a lot more than we thought," she said in an ITV interview (via Marie Claire).
Designer Chloe Savage, who worked on both Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton’s dresses, told Insider, "It was a beautiful dress, but someone should have warned them that it was going to be stuffed in the carriage! It looked like it needed to be pressed. You could have brushed it over before she walked down the aisle. It would have taken 10 minutes and all those creases would have dropped."
Princess Di spilled a bottle of perfume on her dress
Wrinkles weren’t the only issue with Diana’s dress on her big day — it turns out the garment also had a massive perfume stain on it. Her makeup artist, Barbara Daly, said that Diana had spilled the perfume down the front of the dress, according to People. Daly said she tried to clean up the stain, to no avail. To keep the stain under wraps, so to speak, Daly suggested to Princess Diana that she should hold up the front of the dress by gathering the stained fabric in her hand, so it would appear that she was just trying to avoid stepping on it as she walked. She also reportedly tried to place her hand over the stained spot as she walked up to the altar.
Clearly, Diana’s plan worked, because no one noticed the stain and the dress designers were none the wiser. We’ve got to give Barbara and Diana kudos for such quick thinking.
Her tiara gave her a terrible headache
Princess Diana’s dress wasn’t the only part of her attire that gave her grief. It turns out her tiara was so heavy that it gave her a headache. The accessory, known as the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara, was given to Diana by Queen Mary herself, who inherited it in 1953 after the death of the prior queen (via The Court Jeweller).
However, Princess Diana often complained that the bejeweled tiara, which features 19 diamond arches with a pearl hanging from each one, the Daily Beast reported it was so heavy that it caused her to have constant headaches when she wore it. While Diana did wear the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara for her big day, she often opted to wear the Spencer Tiara instead, which she found to be far more lightweight and comfortable (via Vogue).
Even though Diana wasn’t a huge fan of the tiara and was rarely seen donning it doesn’t mean it’s been collecting dust. Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has also been seen wearing the infamous tiara, paired with a festive red gown, according to Refinery29.
She said Prince Charles’ name wrong during their vows
If all the dress and crown faux pas weren’t enough, the ceremony was also riddled with mishaps. One of the more memorable was when Diana said Prince Charles’ name incorrectly during their vows. You heard that right: Diana flubbed the name of her husband-to-be. Apparently, the young princess said "Philip Charles Arthur George" instead of "Charles Philip Arthur George," even though Charles and the officiant had pronounced his name correctly moments before, according to HuffPost. She also excluded the line saying "obey," a very controversial choice.
Luckily, she wasn’t alone — Charles would also go on to fumble his vows. Instead of saying "my worldly goods," he ended up saying "thy goods" (via Marie Claire), which sounds a bit more Elizabethan than 1981 if you ask us. We suppose this can all be chalked up to wedding jitters, but those are some pretty rough blunders for any wedding — let alone a royal one that’s being broadcasted for the entire world to see.
Charles forgot to kiss Diana during the ceremony
You would think fumbled vows would be the worst of it, but Prince Charles also forgot one of the most crucial parts of the wedding ceremony: kissing his bride. Prince Charles didn’t kiss Diana after they exchanged their vows (via History), which seems like a massive foreshadowing for their relationship as a whole. He did try to make up for it by kissing her on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in front of 600,000 people who had flooded the London streets.
The kiss on the Buckingham Palace balcony would become a royal wedding tradition of sorts, as Prince Andrew and his bride — Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York — would also kiss there in 1986. However, the prince and duchess were actually advised not to perform the iconic kiss, something the duchess revealed to Oprah Winfrey in the documentary "Finding Sarah: From Royalty to the Real World," as reported by the International Business Times.
According to ABC News, Prince William and Kate Middleton would also share not one, but two kisses on the balcony after their wedding in 2011. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would opt for a kiss outside of St. George’s Chapel (via Harper’s Bazaar).
Princess Diana was unhappy on her wedding day
Many say your wedding day is supposed to be the best day of your life, but it was quite the contrary for this princess. In unseen footage from an interview with her close friend Peter Settelen, Diana said that her wedding was "the worst day of my life" (via Independent).
Daily Mirror photographer Kent Gavin recalled how upset the princess was prior to her wedding, per a quote reported by Insider. "The day before, I was with her at Smith’s Lawn. Prince Charles was playing polo, and she was there. She was very upset and left," he said. On the pair’s wedding day, Gavin witnessed Diana and the rest of the royal family as they entered St. Paul’s Cathedral. "The queen, who I could see quite clearly from my position, was very happy," he said. "It was a very happy occasion for everybody apart from Diana, sadly." This feels like yet another omen of what was to become of the pair’s future nuptials.
In 2017, National Geographic would release tapes recorded by author Andrew Morton from secret interviews he was conducting with Diana for his book "Diana: Her True Story." The National Geographic documentary, titled "Diana: In Her Own Words," would include Diana’s thoughts on her wedding day. "I don’t think I was happy. I never tried to call it off, in the sense of really doing that," she said, per a second Insider article.
Charles told Diana he didn’t love her the night before the big day
The night before her big day, Diana heard the words that no bride wants to hear: Prince Charles allegedly told her he didn’t love her. According to Diana’s astrologer Penny Thornton, it was a devastating blow, as People reported. "One of the most shocking things Diana told me was that the night before the wedding, Charles told her he didn’t love her," she said in the documentary "The Diana Interview: Revenge of the Princess."
After hearing that news, Diana felt an urge to not go through with the wedding, but she made no effort to call it off. "She didn’t want to go through with the wedding at that point — she thought about not attending the wedding," said Thornton.
At this point, it seems that all of this should have been a massive sign that this union was not meant to be. Time reported that formal royal correspondent Stephen Bates believes the marriage came to be out of necessity, not love. "There was an air of desperation about the marriage. The royals were so desperate to seize this potential asset," he said. In fact, Prince Charles felt pressured to marry Diana, according to biographer Ingrid Seward. "He told some of his friends that he felt pressurized into marrying Diana because Philip said, ‘You’ve either got to marry her or let her go. You can’t string a … young girl [along],’" she said (via Us Weekly).
One of Diana’s bridesmaids cried after falling
For most people, the idea of a bridesmaid tripping, falling, and crying during a wedding would probably seem embarrassing. But what if we told you that Diana’s falling bridesmaid was actually a young child?
Clementine Hambro was only 5 years old when she served as the princess’ bridesmaid. As Today reported, she’s the great-granddaughter of Winston Churchill and was one of Lady Diana’s kindergarten students at the time. Luckily, Clementine didn’t fall during the ceremony; it happened when the wedding party was heading to the infamous balcony. Being the icon she is, Diana went straight from princess to primary school teacher, asking Clementine if she’d "bumped her bum," which would ultimately cheer up the young bridesmaid (via Marie Claire).
In 2018, Hambro shared her memories of the wedding day with Today. "I remember being quite a bit excited. I remember being very proud to be involved," she said. "But actually, I had very little idea of all this sort of situation that was going on."
Some leaders declined to attend the wedding
With 3,500 guests in attendance for Princess Di’s wedding, there was bound to be some drama. In this case, however, the drama didn’t involve family and friends, but rather other European leaders. Mind you, they were all invited to attend, but some declined — for a mix of petty and legitimate reasons.
Let’s start with the petty, shall we? The president of Greece turned down his invitation because former King Constantine of Greece, Charles’ cousin, was invited under the title of "king" (via History). King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia (another cousin of Charles) would also not attend due to the newlyweds boarding the Royal Yacht Britannia to honeymoon in Gibraltar, which was formerly a British territory and had been claimed by Spain.
The most legitimate decline was that of the president of the Republic of Ireland. In the same History article, historian Carolyn Harris said, "The president of the Republic of Ireland declined the invitation because of disputes over the status of Northern Ireland." Known as The Troubles, Northern Ireland was fighting for its independence, as it was still under British rule, per History. This conflict would persist until 1998, so it makes sense that the president of the Republic of Ireland wouldn’t want to attend the 1981 British wedding.
If it had rained, the umbrellas wouldn’t have helped
Let’s start by saying that, luckily, it didn’t rain on Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding day — it was actually a beautiful, sunny day. But this didn’t stop dress designers Elizabeth and David Emanuel from prepping for the worst. Remember, these are the same people who made a spare wedding dress that Diana didn’t even know existed.
The two went out of their way to make two custom umbrellas. Naturally, the designers made sure the umbrellas were made of the same fabric as the princess’ wedding dress, and they were trimmed with lace and embroidered with pearls and sequins.
While they sound absolutely stunning, Elizabeth knew the umbrellas would be useless if it did happen to rain. "It was made of such light material that it certainly wasn’t waterproof. It wouldn’t have done her much good," she said (via Express). Despite the other mishaps that occurred during Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding day, one silver lining was that not a single raindrop fell and the decorative umbrellas weren’t put to the test.